Thanksgiving volunteers: Eureka Springs students help families in need

Thursday, November 25, 2021
The Eureka Springs High School FBLA Club displays the food collected for the annual Thanksgiving baskets project. Pictured from left to right are (front row) Dina McElwee, Guilia Tanchella, Hannah Kelley, Emma Hutchens, Ali Fargo, Olivia Cross, Matthew Lester and Jacob Eastburn and (back row) Kegley Ertel and Teagan Farriester.
Photo courtesy of Emma Gilmore

At the Eureka Springs School District, Thanksgiving is all about giving back. The Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) Club spent most of last week gathering donations for Thanksgiving baskets, putting together 20 baskets for local families in need.

FBLA president Jacob Eastburn said the club started collecting items on Monday, Nov. 15, with only four days to spare before delivering the baskets. It was a time crunch, Eastburn said, but the community came through in a big way.

“Everyone came out in full force,” Eastburn said. “It’s really nice to see all the clubs come together. We do a competition and whoever wins gets a doughnut breakfast, so people went all out and buy way more than we need.”

Eastburn continued, “So we have extras. I think we have double the mashed potatoes we need. Some of those items will go to the families and any excess we have is going to be donated back to the food banks around here.”

Speaking with the Lovely County Citizen on Wednesday, Nov. 17, Eastburn said he expected to have many more donations by the time Friday rolled around.

“We probably have two-thirds of what we’ll collect so far,” Eastburn said. “A lot of people bring it in the first wave, and then we send out notifications saying what we still need. We’re getting those in now.”

Eastburn said the baskets contain a full Thanksgiving meal, including a turkey, vegetables and dessert. The turkeys were all donated by Hart’s Family Center, Eastburn said.

“It’s tradition,” Eastburn said. “This is our way to help families in need during the holiday season.”

FBLA reporter Kegley Ertel recalled passing out the baskets last year and interacting with local parents.

“They drive up and you hand them everything and they’re always super appreciative,” Ertel said. “Sometimes, some of them are crying. It makes it all worth it.”

Eastburn said the project opened his eyes to the food insecurity in Eureka Springs.

“It’s hard to think that people are struggling with not having enough, but there’s students right next to me in class that don’t have the food I take for granted,” Eastburn said.

FBLA’s mission has a major service component, Eastburn said, and he’s grateful for all the lessons he’s learned gathering food donations.

“It’s not always about making more money. It’s about being a better leader in general,” Eastburn said. “I talked to Hart’s and they donated the turkeys. Rotary Interact donated the baskets. You have to make those connections.”

Business teacher Billie Reed said she’s proud of the students. She’s worked at the school for two years, Reed said, and that’s plenty of time to see the giving spirit in Eureka Springs.

“It takes the whole community. It takes the school. It takes the businesses,” Reed said. “It takes everyone in the community to pull something like this together and make it happen.”

High school principal David Gilmore said the students know how important it is to give back.

“We see the need for Thanksgiving food and we try to fulfill that need as much as we can and make sure everybody has everything they need, because we don’t want anybody to go hungry,” Gilmore said.

In addition to the Thanksgiving baskets, elementary school students gathered donations for Flint Street Fellowship. Superintendent Bryan Pruitt said the students filled a bus with donations.

“It was unbelievable the stuff they collected,” Pruitt said. “They had a room full of food brought in.”

Flint Street director Kathy Barnes said she has been amazed by recent donations.

“We didn’t expect that much. Our hearts are full from this,” Barnes said.

Eastburn thanked everyone who has donated food and supplies over the past two weeks.

“Everyone can donate something and they have,” Eastburn said. “It’s really nice to see.”

“It couldn’t have happened without them,” Ertel said. “Thank you so much.”

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